Common Core: A Lesson Plan for Raising up Compliant, Non-thinking Citizens

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John W. Whitehead, Founder, the Rutherford Institute

John W. White­head, Founder, the Ruther­ford Insti­tute

As I point out in my new book, A Gov­ern­ment of Wolves: The Emerg­ing Amer­i­can Police State, there are sev­er­al meth­ods for con­trol­ling a pop­u­la­tion. You can intim­i­date the cit­i­zen­ry into obe­di­ence through force, rely­ing on mil­i­tary strength and weapon­ry such as SWAT team raids, mil­i­ta­rized police, and a vast array of lethal and non­lethal weapons. You can manip­u­late them into march­ing in lock­step with your dic­tates through the use of pro­pa­gan­da and care­ful­ly timed fear tac­tics about threats to their safe­ty, whether through the phan­tom men­ace of ter­ror­ist attacks or shoot­ing sprees by soli­tary gun­men. Or you can indoc­tri­nate them into com­pli­ance from an ear­ly age through the schools, dis­cour­ag­ing them from think­ing for them­selves while reward­ing them for regur­gi­tat­ing what­ev­er the gov­ern­ment, through its so-called edu­ca­tion­al stan­dards, dic­tates they should be taught.

Those who found­ed Amer­i­ca believed that an edu­cat­ed cit­i­zen­ry knowl­edge­able about their rights was the surest means of pre­serv­ing free­dom. If so, then the inverse should also hold true: that the surest way for a gov­ern­ment to main­tain its pow­er and keep the cit­i­zen­ry in line is by ren­der­ing them igno­rant of their rights and unable to think for them­selves.

When viewed in light of the government’s ongo­ing attempts to amass pow­er at great cost to Amer­i­cans — in terms of free speech rights, pri­va­cy, due process, etc. — the debate over Com­mon Core State Stan­dards, which would trans­form and nation­al­ize school cur­ricu­lum from kinder­garten through 12th grade, becomes that much more crit­i­cal.

Essen­tial­ly, these stan­dards, which were devel­oped through a part­ner­ship between big gov­ern­ment and cor­po­ra­tions, in the absence of any real input from par­ents or edu­ca­tors with prac­ti­cal, hands-on class­room expe­ri­ence, and are being rolled out in 45 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, will cre­ate a gen­er­a­tion of test-tak­ers capa­ble of lit­tle else, mold­ed and shaped by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and its cor­po­rate allies into what it con­sid­ers to be ide­al cit­i­zens.

More­over, as Valerie Strauss reports for The Wash­ing­ton Post:

The costs of the tests, which have mul­ti­ple pieces through­out the year plus the com­put­er plat­forms need­ed to admin­is­ter and score them, will be enor­mous and will come at the expense of more impor­tant things. The plung­ing scores will be used as an excuse to close more pub­lic schools and open more pri­va­tized char­ters and vouch­er schools, espe­cial­ly in poor com­mu­ni­ties of col­or. If, as pro­posed, the Com­mon Core’s ‘col­lege and career ready’ per­for­mance lev­el becomes the stan­dard for high school grad­u­a­tion, it will push more kids out of high school than it will pre­pare for col­lege.”

With so much mon­ey to be made and so many ques­tion­able agen­das at work, it is lit­tle won­der, then, that attempts are being made to squelch any and all oppo­si­tion to these stan­dards. For exam­ple, at a recent pub­lic forum to dis­cuss the imple­men­ta­tion of these stan­dards in Bal­ti­more Coun­ty pub­lic schools, one par­ent, 46-year-old Robert Small, found him­self “pulled out of the meet­ing, arrest­ed and charged with sec­ond-degree assault of a police offi­cer” sim­ply for dar­ing to voice his dis­con­tent with the stan­dards dur­ing a Q&A ses­sion with the super­in­ten­dent.

Don’t stand for this. You are sit­ting here like cat­tle,” shout­ed Robert Small to his fel­low atten­dees as he was being dragged out of the “forum” on the Com­mon Core stan­dards. “Is this Amer­i­ca?”

No, Mr. Small, this is no longer Amer­i­ca. This is, instead, fas­cism with a smile, sold to us by our so-called rep­re­sen­ta­tives, cal­cu­lat­ing cor­po­ra­tions, and an edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem that is march­ing in lock­step with the government’s agen­da.

In this way, we are being con­di­tioned to be slaves with­out know­ing it. That way, we are eas­i­er to con­trol. “A real­ly effi­cient total­i­tar­i­an state would be one in which the all-pow­er­ful exec­u­tive of polit­i­cal boss­es and their army of man­agers con­trol a pop­u­la­tion of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servi­tude,” writes Aldous Hux­ley.

The orig­i­nal pur­pose of a pre-uni­ver­si­ty edu­ca­tion in ear­ly Amer­i­ca was not to pre­pare young peo­ple to be doc­tors or lawyers but, as Thomas Jef­fer­son believed, to make cit­i­zens knowl­edge­able about “their rights, inter­ests, and duties as men and cit­i­zens.”

Yet that’s where the prob­lem aris­es for us today. Most cit­i­zens have lit­tle, if any, knowl­edge about their basic rights, large­ly due to an edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem that does a poor job of teach­ing the basic free­doms guar­an­teed in the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Bill of Rights.

Many stud­ies con­firm this. For instance, when Newsweek asked 1,000 adult U.S. cit­i­zens to take America’s offi­cial cit­i­zen­ship test, 29 per­cent of respon­dents couldn’t name the cur­rent vice pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. Sev­en­ty-three per­cent couldn’t cor­rect­ly say why Amer­i­ca fought the Cold War. More crit­i­cal­ly, 44 per­cent were unable to define the Bill of Rights.

That Amer­i­cans are con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly illit­er­ate is not a mere over­sight on the part of gov­ern­ment edu­ca­tors. And things will only get worse under Com­mon Core, which as the The Wash­ing­ton Post reports, is a not-so-sub­tle attempt “to cir­cum­vent fed­er­al restric­tions on the adop­tion of a nation­al cur­ricu­lum.”

As with most “bright ideas” com­ing out of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, once you fol­low the mon­ey trail, it all makes sense. And those who stand to prof­it are the com­pa­nies cre­at­ing both the tests that will dri­ve the school cur­ricu­lum, as well as the prepara­to­ry test mate­ri­als, the com­put­er and soft­ware indus­tries, and the states, which will receive fed­er­al funds in exchange for their coop­er­a­tion.

Putting aside the prof­it-dri­ven motives of the cor­po­ra­tions and the pow­er-dri­ven motives of the gov­ern­ment, there is also an inher­ent arro­gance in the imple­men­ta­tion of these Com­mon Core stan­dards that speaks to the government’s view that par­ents essen­tial­ly for­feit their rights when they send their chil­dren to a pub­lic school, and should have lit­tle to no say in what their kids are taught and how they are treat­ed by school offi­cials. This is evi­dent in the trans­for­ma­tion of the schools into qua­si-pris­ons, com­plete with met­al detec­tors, drug-sniff­ing dogs, and sur­veil­lance cam­eras. The result is a gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple brow­beat­en into believ­ing that they have no true rights, while gov­ern­ment author­i­ties have total pow­er and can vio­late con­sti­tu­tion­al rights when­ev­er they see fit.

Yet as Richard Drey­fuss, Oscar-win­ning actor and civics edu­ca­tion activist, warns: “Unless we teach the ideas that make Amer­i­ca a mir­a­cle of gov­ern­ment, it will go away in your kids’ life­times, and we will be a fable.”